Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Posidonius, aka Posidonius of Rhodes or Posidonius of Apameia (meaning "of Poseidon") NULL

Greek Stoic Philosopher, Politician, Astronomer, Geographer, Historian, Polymath and Teacher, his work only exists in fragments today

"A single day in the life of a learned man is worth more than the lifetime of a fool."

"Posidonius was dissatisfied with the traditional view that made the individual soul the simple mirror of the World-Soul, because he saw in the effort to follow the superior daimon the possibility of participating in its activity. For Posidonius, the wise man, and even the individual who is making moral progress, shares with the World-Soul the task of continuously creating and sustaining kosmos. The happy human being does not merely live in harmony with Nature; he is one of the creators of Nature. Thus Posidonius gave a fresh and powerful dimension to Stoic ethics. [paraphrased]"

"Riches are a cause of evil, not because, of themselves, they do any evil, but because they goad men on to evil."

"Whilst some Stoics condemned wealth and the acquisitions of goods as inherently evil, just as they shunned political and social life as an irresistible invitation to moral corruption, Posidonius held that these things were neither good nor evil in themselves. As an active participant in the organization of kosmos, the individual should not fear either material goods or the life of the polis. Rather, he should be vigilant in the use to which he puts his resources and energies. Simple withdrawal from the world is too passive for the Posidonian man: correct participation in all things is the cosmopolitan ideal which signals inner withdrawal from the inferior daimon in the soul. It is not enough, then, to recognize wise men and immoral men – one must know the soul-characteristics of the wise man so that one can through emulation of them make moral progress. By separating Fate from Zeus, Posidonius firmly renounced rigid determinism while being fully aware of the forces at work in the world. Moral progress is possible because man, as a participant in the divine and informing governance of kosmos, can work to adjust, over the long term, Fate itself. Although kosmos cannot be understood in terms of some fantastic eschatology, moral progress (and therefore a movement towards authentic philosophical happiness) is possible because the organization of kosmos is capable of degrees of improvement. Change occurs as man learns to participate in cosmic activity – becoming cosmopolitan in a transcendental sense – by turning from the lower and embracing the rational daimon in himself. He achieves this through the selfless and assiduous performance of his duties. [paraphrased]"

"Posidonius found the idea of personal immortality absurd. Since the evil daimon is innate to the individual soul and absent from the World-Soul, the soul cannot become immortal by freeing itself of wrongdoing, for the individual soul as a whole cannot join the World-Soul. But the individual can through right ethics place the superior daimon in charge of all aspects of soul, subordinate the passional tendencies by withdrawing from the lower daimon, and thus engage in a microcosmic version of ceaselessly reducing chaos to kosmos. By assimilating the action of the higher daimonic aspect of soul to the celestial motion of the World-Soul, the individual merges the immortal part of the soul with the governing principle of the universe. The wise man does not seek immortality, for he knows there is that in him which is immortal. Perhaps Posidonius found in this standpoint the possibility of self-conscious, though not personal, immortality through cultivation of the highest in the individual. [paraphrased]"

"For Posidonius, ouranos, heaven, offers the paradigm for man. The stars teach ethics. The individual who pursues his duties without emotional involvement in them and without the correlative expectation of results, who recognizes honesty as the good and the hallmark of the wise man, and who seeks to honour the higher daimon in himself discovers a fidelity within the soul which is both its overarching oikeiosis and its link to the World-Soul. He sees that the principles of physics can be translated into the laws of psychology from which are derived ethics and the rules of right conduct. Without wavering in his loyalty to the deepest insights of the Stoic tradition, Posidonius exemplified in his own life and thought the ability of the philosopher to penetrate afresh and more precisely the mystery of the kosmos and the less ordered realm in which human beings dwell. His fearlessness of method and the marriage of observation and abstract thought influenced the generations which came immediately after him, and inspired a number of thinkers in the dawn of the European Enlightenment. [paraphrased]"

"There are never any occasions when you need think yourself safe because you wield the weapons of Fortune: fight with your own. Fortune does not furnish arms against herself and so men equipped against their foes are unarmed against Fortune herself."

"fundamental principles depended on philosophers and individual problems on scientists; and he believed that, among early men, the philosophically wise managed everything and discovered all crafts and industry. ... For true judgement the standard is right reasoning; but precepts, persuasion, consolation, and exhortation are necessary; and enquiry into causes as opposed to matter is important. [paraphrased]"